Longitudinal surface structures (flowstripes) on Antarctic glaciers

Longitudinal surface structures (“flowstripes”) are common on many glaciers but their origin and significance are poorly understood. In this paper we present observations of the development of these longitudinal structures from four different Antarctic glacier systems; the Lambert Glacier/Amery Ice Shelf area, the Taylor and Ferrar Glaciers in the Ross Sea sector, Crane and Jorum Glaciers (ice-shelf tributary glaciers) on the Antarctic Peninsula, and the onset zone of a tributary to the Recovery Glacier Ice Stream in the Filchner Ice Shelf area. Mapping from optical satellite images demonstrates that longitudinal surface structures develop in two main situations: (1) as relatively wide flow stripes within glacier flow units and (2) as relatively narrow flow stripes where there is convergent flow around nunataks or at glacier confluence zones. Our observations indicate that the confluence features are narrower, sharper, and more clearly defined features. They are characterised by linear troughs or depressions on the ice surface and are much more common than the former type. Longitudinal surface structures within glacier flow units have previously been explained as the surface expression of localised bed perturbations but a universal explanation for those forming at glacier confluences is lacking. Here we propose that these features are formed at zones of ice acceleration and extensional flow at glacier confluences. We provide a schematic model for the development of longitudinal surface structures based on extensional flow that can explain their ridge and trough morphology as well as their down-ice persistence.


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Authors: Glasser, N. F., Gudmundsson, G. H. ORCIDORCID record for G. H. Gudmundsson

On this site: Hilmar Gudmundsson
1 January, 2012
The Cryosphere / 6
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